Uber has introduced new features aimed at solving unfair deactivation issues that ride-hail and delivery drivers often face.
Starting Monday across the US, Uber will roll out technology that identifies Uber Eats riders or customers who frequently give bad ratings or feedback in order to get a refund. Customers’ allegations, the company said in a blog post, will not be considered in driver ratings or deactivation decisions.
The ride-hail giant also expanded its in-app review center to give drivers and couriers more information about why their account was deactivated, allow them to request a review of the decision and share any additional information such as audio or video recordings.
Uber launched an audio recording feature for drivers and riders nationwide last year. The company also began piloting video recording and said Monday it will expand the pilot to iOS drivers in a dozen U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Minneapolis, and select Los Angeles drivers.
Uber will also conduct voluntary drug tests so that drivers accused of driving under the influence of a drug or for having a vehicle that smells like marijuana (in a state where it is legal) can dispute those charges. complaint.
Drivers have long protested against the unfair deactivations, which amount to a crackdown on the app-based gig economy, and many have joined class action lawsuits against the company. Drivers complain that some riders submit false complaints out of malice or prejudice. They also say they lack transparency in looking at the nature of complaints to counter them, and that Uber offers little or no way to dispute claims.
Two drivers who spoke to TechCrunch on condition of anonymity said they had no warning that they would be deactivated. One day, they tried to open the app and found that their access had been revoked.
A report in February from the Asian Law Caucus found that 30% of deactivated drivers said they were not given any explanation as to why they were deactivated. Of the drivers that the given a reason, 42% said they were deactivated because of a customer complaint. Another 10% said they were deactivated due to low customer ratings.
The report also found that nearly half of all deactivated drivers believe customer discrimination led to their deactivation — drivers of color and drivers who do not speak English well are more likely to experience temporary or permanent deactivation.
Because Uber drivers are not classified as employees, if they are deactivated, they are not automatically eligible for unemployment and often find themselves suddenly without income. Of those surveyed in the report, 81% said that driving on the Uber and Lyft platforms is their main source of income. Nearly a fifth of those deactivated lost their car and 12% lost their homes after kicking the app.
Proving the validity of customer complaints – and whether they are motivated by prejudice or just a capricious desire to get a free ride – is a difficult problem to solve. Historically, Uber has not shared the exact complaint or the time and date of the complaint with drivers. A spokesperson told TechCrunch that it’s for safety reasons, so a jilted driver doesn’t decide to take revenge on a customer who gave them a bad rating.
Uber did not clarify whether the new in-app review center will now provide drivers with such details.
The company says its model for identifying false complaints, or “support abuse,” looks for (1) egregious or over-the-top reports that don’t follow a logical sequence of events; (2) apparent willingness to receive funds or credits; and (3) multiple reports, including similar or verbatim language.
Passenger verification and other updates for drivers
Uber also said that by 2025, the company will expand the verification of rider identities. Riders are identified based on simple third-party checks – like if your name matches the credit card on file. If Uber can’t verify a rider’s identity that way, they’ll ask for ID, but that’s not the norm. Uber won’t share more information about it, such as whether Uber automatically verifies riders or whether riders have to opt-in.
Uber has also integrated Android Auto with the Uber Driver app, allowing drivers using Android devices to now see heat maps, accept rides and use on-screen navigation from their car’s dashboard. The integration comes months after Uber launched something similar to Apple CarPlay in February.
Finally, Uber has added a tool to the app to help couriers find nearby parking. The company says it will also add labels to the map that specify the exact drop-off doors or photos of the building to make it clearer to couriers where a customer has asked to drop off food.